HTS WRITING PRIZES 2014: Initiating the dialogue between writing and reading Review

by Zaynab Dena Ziari, AA HTS Course Tutor
30 May 2014 Rear Presentation Space, 36 Bedford Square   The two-fold act of writing and reading is an encounter occurring between the person who writes and the person who reads. The writing prize marks an extension of this encounter, opening up and extending the possibility of a relationship to writing with the rest of the school, to engage in an acknowledgment of what it may mean to write about architecture, to do so well, and what it means to read and be a reader. This encounter that the writing prize makes possible has the potential to become a dialogue, to open itself up into the possibility of a discussion that is centred on writing but is essentially about the very nature of the encounter between these two acts, the moment when the work of writing and the work of reading become a work in itself.   This year’s prizes were centred around forms of writing and of reading. No two of the shortlisted essays, in their approach or style, were the same. What they shared was either their capacity to test the boundaries of how an argument can be communicated through their experimentation with the form or, in contrast, they exercised the capacity for a well-formed academic essay to communicate itself on behalf of the reader.   Being a swimmer, and finding herself newly in London, first year Veronica Janovcová was struck by the little attention that public swimming baths appear to receive in the city. She takes a historical approach in her essay, tracing the importance of bathing all the way back to antiquity, which touches on the varying and evolutionary impressions towards the human body and hygiene as an influential factor in the development of the public bath. The essay is cyclical, communicating to the reader through a circular form that brings them back to the very point that she began with, that it is the changing views of the body that influence our attitudes towards well-being.
Second year Alexandra Savtcheko-Belskaia presented us with a literary text, an observation on the columns on the façade of the Soane Museum. Beginning as a fascination towards their uncanny presence, it developed into a desire to try to locate meaning in the seemingly meaningless. She led us to her argument by illustrating the capacity of an object to mean more than one thing by turning it into an object that is entirely subjective, to recreate the object simply by observing it, and to re-write it simply by writing it. Hers was provocative enough to prompt the reader to actively engage in a text that demanded of them their participation, to be wholly present in the act of reading.   [caption id="attachment_3221" align="alignnone" width="360"]The HTS Writing Prize held in the rear presentation space Image credit: Valerie Bennett The HTS Writing Prize held in the rear presentation space
Image credit: Valerie Bennett[/caption] In the third year Radu Macovei presented a linear essay on the 18th century post-modernist architect Jean-Jacques Lequeu, where he demonstrated with precision how Lequeu’s unrealised works were a form of writing. This was a way of locating meaning in two bizarre and striking works that ask for conjecture on behalf of the imaginative reader. This analysis located Lequeu as an unsung hero for the Post Modernist tradition, exposing him and his bovine shed as the original Post Modernist.
The Diploma School brought us a variety of works and approaches to writing, ranging from academic prose to the poetic and literary. Louise Underhill, this year’s winner of the Dennis Sharp Prize, focused on the works of Mira Schendel where she explored the visual language of drawing and writing. She demonstrated that writing and drawing are two distinct but corresponding forms, and their relationship rests on both forms as means of communication. The drawn and the written result in graphic objects that are to be read and to not just be seen, exposing what is written in the graphic object.   The long day ended as it began, where I asked myself “what are the possibilities in using writing to speak about architecture, and what is it to do that well?” The task of unveiling the answers is a process that will only really be revealed in a continuous encounter between a school that writes and a school that reads. And evidently, our sole task is to be wholeheartedly engaged in creating the encounters – to keep writing, and to keep reading; to keep asking the questions, to do the work.   For more information: AA Writing Microsite Veronika Janovcová's First Year Writing Prize Winning Essay Alexandra Savtchenko Belskaia's Second Year Writing Prize Winning Essay Radu Remus Macovei's Third Year Writing Prize Winning Essay Louise Underhill's Diploma Writing Prize Winning Essay HTS Writing Prizes 2013 by Sylvie Taher